How Librarians Have Been on the Front Line to Protect Privacy

In the hours before US senators voted to take on the might of the National Security Agency this week, their inboxes were deluged with more than 2,200 supportive emails from a most unlikely group of revolutionaries: America’s librarians. Their contribution to the passage of the USA Freedom Act may not have been as dramatic as the revelations of Edward Snowden, but this mild-mannered wing of the privacy lobby has been stridently campaigning against government surveillance since long before the NSA whistleblower shot to fame. The first politician to discover the danger of underestimating what happens when you have thousands of librarians on your case was attorney general John Ashcroft who, in 2003, accused the American Library Association of “baseless hysteria” and ridiculed their protests against the Patriot Act.